Thursday, April 26, 2012

And I Still Rise reviewed by Harmonica Joe Poluyanskis

And I Still Rise
Heritage Blues Orchestra
Raisin’ Music
12 tracks/48:56

The Heritage Blues Orchestra takes a bold step defining African –American music and blues with the release of “And I Still Stand.” This recording is packed with 12 powerful tunes that hit upon what the blues are about. I will say that this CD is not for you that are looking for straight blues with guitar, bass, drums and vocals. This project is one that made up of something different.

HBO band features Bill Simms Jr. on electric and acoustic guitar, vocals and handclaps, Chaney Simms, his daughter, with vocals and handclaps, Junior Mack playing dobro, electric and electric slide guitar plus vocals. Kenny “Beady Eyes” Smith takes on the roll of drummer and percussionist while Vincent Bucher does an outstanding job with the harmonica.  HBO also features a very outstanding horn ensemble including saxophone, trumpets, trombones, tuba and a sousaphone. This group adds a powerful plus to the dynamics of this recording.

The opening tune on “And I Still Rise” is Son House’s “Clarksdale Moan”. This version just jumps out and gets your attention right now. Junior Mack’s guitar work walks us into a powerful drum line from “Beady Eyes” Smith which sets the stage for Bucher’s steady chugging harmonica background. Junior Mack’s vocals are full and strong giving the song the true blues feel we are looking for. The addition of the horn section with the harmonica grabs at your ear adding a whole new dimension to “Clarksdale Moan.” This tune makes a real statement on where this recording is taking us.

“Go Down Hannah” gives an example of a work song – field song with the strong vocals of Chaney Sims. This tune really is a statement from this band. Next we venture into the world of gospel blues with “Get Right Church” which features slide guitar from Junior Mack and really strong three part harmonies. Also include on “And I Still Rise” “Big Legged Woman” with Matthew Skoller a fine harp solo and “Levee Camp Holler” which comes on really strong.

My favorite song on this recording is the rousing, Bill Sims JR’, rendition of McKinley Morganfield’s “Catfish Blues.” Featured though-out this track is the fusion of the horn section and Vincent Bucher’s harp playing. This combination just works to bring a unique full sound to song. Sims does strut his stuff on vocals here also.

The Heritage Blues Orchestra is a very unique group of musicians and vocalist that take us on a blues venture unlike most groups. Their presentation of blues and African-American music is true to the past but also is taken into a whole new direction. “And I Still Rise” makes a strong statement of blues history and at the same time infuses jazz, gospel, and funk into the world of root music blues. Take the time to listen to and find out about the Heritage Blues Orchestra and their CD “And Still I Stand.”

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